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An offer to stay connected

We have a drawer full of iPods, iPads, Kindles, etc. They are not the most current release, but they’re operable and in good shape. We’d like to gift them out for any kids that don’t have a way to be connected right now. (Please don’t take them and sell them.)

I know that requesting can be embarrassing. Send me a personal message if you have a kid in need. We’ll get everything reset, charged, and cleaned and see what we have available and then get back to you.

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The Christ Child

This new film tells the Nativity story in the most historically accurate way possible and it’s better because of it. No frills. The visit of the wisemen was powerful in a way I’ve never appreciated before. What a gift! I’m looking forward to the Christmas season and all that comes with it.

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The Power of Repetitious Teaching

Note: A portion of a talk I gave at the Shadow Mountain Stake Conference held May 2019 in Las Vegas, NV.

I recently conducted a social experiment on my children. Wait, let me phrase that another way.

I recently taught my children something new.

About a year ago, I decided that I wanted to see how long it would take for my kids to pick up on a phrase and put it into their vocabulary. I had to find a phrase that they would have never heard anywhere so I could know it was the first time they were being introduced to it.

I decided on a phrase that was used in a marketing campaign from the forties by some appliance stores. More recently, I’ve heard it a number of times from a sports radio host from New York City. It was the perfect phrase.

For months I would work it into our regular conversations. I’d say it during dinner. I’d say it while playing sports outside with the kids. I’d say the phrase during Family Home Evening. I’d say it in conversation and in text messages.

I was careful never to bring special attention to the phrase. I wouldn’t say it louder or anything. I’d just use it as part of our conversations. I wanted it to be a natural pickup in their vocabulary.

(Why do I feel like I’m being judged right now?)

Anyway, after seven months of speaking my phrase, it finally happened.

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An auto-close sliding glass door

Summer is coming and bringing the heat and the bugs. If you’re still looking for a Father’s or Mother’s Day gift, this sliding glass door closer is wonderful. No more yelling “shut the door.”

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Moving from Gmail to Fastmail…kind of

I wrote that tweet nearly a year ago, but the desire to make a move from gmail had been around for a long time before this request. I created a gmail account in 2004 as it was fast, free and offered plenty of space. It has always worked mostly well but I was looking for other options.

The problem is that moving an email address is not simple. Updating all your family, friends and acquaintances is not fun for me and also kind of annoying for them. Maybe a little presumptuous even? (Just in case I’m in your address book…)

I finally made a move a few months ago to Fastmail, kind of.

The move has worked out really well. I want to share the changes because I think a lot of others may be in a similar position. However, I’ve been putting off this post because every time I thought to write it, the length grew in my head to be too much to write. To avoid this becoming accurate, I’ll tell you up front:

This isn’t a technical tutorial for making the switch. Fastmail has really nice documentation on how to switch your DNS and setting up your clients.

This also won’t be an in-depth opinion on privacy, big data and control of our information. People who have strong feelings, already have opinions. And those who don’t know, usually don’t care.

With that laid out, let’s move on.

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A look at the 1984 General Conference

A few years ago, I wrote about the conference session during which Thomas S Monson was sustained as an Apostle. It was in 1963.

Recently, I viewed the April 1984 conference session to refresh my memory on the day that President Russell M Nelson was sustained as an Apostle. I love to observe the process and see the video from the Tabernacle.

As I watched the video, I had a few other things jump out at me. I thought I’d share them as we prepare for the April 2019 conference coming up this weekend. This will be the 35th year for President Nelson as an Apostle.

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Use location-based reminders to remember gate codes

In Las Vegas, gated communities are common and increasing in popularity. Supposedly it’s a way to keep crime and loitering down. That’s the positive side of it. 

The negative aspects include constant repairs paid for by HOA fees. Also, it’s a pain to constantly ring friends/family/deliveries/etc through the gate when they arrive. And it’s not fun for your guests either as most people have to call the home or look up the gate codes. Until now, I’ve just kept the gate codes in the notes section of the contact card of the person that lives there.

In Las Vegas, it’s also common to find the gate code written with marker on top of the gate code box. 

For a long time, I’ve wanted a notes app that would be location aware. With this feature, I’d be able to pull up to the gate and the note with the gate code would automatically show up on the home screen of my iPhone. 

When I asked for this app on twitter, it was recommend to use the location aware Reminders app. I’ve done that now, and it works wonderfully. I thought I’d share the setup and steps:

  1. Setup a new list called “Gate Codes” so that all of the items will be easy to find.
  2. I found it easiest to list the location (ie, TPC Summerlin) and then the gate code. With this setup there isn’t any other information getting in the way. Find a naming scheme that works and stick with it. 
  3. In each reminder, use the extra option to “Remind me at a location.” In that search field you can put an address, search your contacts, input an intersection, or even the name of a business. For instance, if you need the gate code for work, try searching for the name of your company. Each location could be setup just a little different depending on how it’s most useful.
  4. Once you find the location, be sure that “When I Arrive” is selected. Also, the blue circle can be enlarged or made smaller. I like to include just a little of the street so it will show up just before I arrive.

That’s it. Now, every time you drive up to that location, the reminder will show up on your screen as a notification. 

A couple other tips that might be helpful:

  • When the notification arrives, don’t mark the item as complete. Instead, you can swipe the notification and clear it. That way it will still be there in when you arrive at that location in future visits.
  • In your iPhone notification settings, you might set the notifications to show on the lock screen, but not stick around in the Notification Center. The info is really only useful right when you need and doesn’t need to be around later.
  • If you have a list dedicated to just these codes, you can easily share this list with others. For instance, if I make this a shared list with my wife than she won’t need to do all the input work on her own.
  • I use this for gate codes but it can be setup for a number of other things. One person has a list just for airport food that he likes. That way, when he has a layover it’ll pop up that he liked a certain plate from his last visit.
  • This takes a little setup, but luckily you can setup the location for the reminders from anywhere. So, next time you have an hour to kill on a plane or in a doctor’s office, you can do them all from there.


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Millions shall know…

This week I turned 14,066 days old; the exact same age as Joseph Smith when he was martyred for his faith in 1844. It’s amazing to think of all he did in such a short time. He was a prophet and so much more. He built cities and temples as he built women and men. Most special to me is the knowledge that communication with heaven remains open on both a general and a personal level.

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The inspiring true story of the Restoration

There is a popular phrase that warns not to “miss the forest for the trees.” It implies that someone might be missing the bigger, more grand picture because they are obsessed too much on a minor detail.

For instance, I recently took this picture while visiting Cuba. All I see in this picture is the hose despite the background looking like a place you could extract dinosaur DNA for a theme park.

This sort of strain happens often in life when it comes to business, family, church and politics. I think it comes with a world that is more contentious and a population that is more easily distracted. It takes effort from all of us to keep focused on the big picture.

In a couple weeks, a new book called “Saints” is being released. It is “the story of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” It is the first book in a four part series. It’s written in a very simple story that’s easy to read. It follows well the advice of Brigham Young:

“Write in a narrative style,” he advised, and “write only about one tenth part as much.”

Brigham Young

While we wait for the full book, the Church has published the first seven chapters online and in the Gospel Library app. I studied them right away and I’m now reading them to my kids before bed.

As I read these first chapters, I realize that I’ve heard most of the details before. However, I also realize that it’s been too long since I really appreciated and pondered on all it took to restore the church. The simple majesty of the restoration, the polishing of a very rough stone of people, and the absolute care and planning of the Lord in his patience. 

I know there are some things that people worry about in Church history. The church has written about many of them but there are still many people yearning for answers. Like you, I study to understand.

However, this book has been refreshing in that it carries me out of the trees and reminds me of the beauty of the forest. I especially love the examples of  good men and women who asked for and received the truth, then gave all they had to help and establish the forest.

And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men.

2 Nephi 25:17
A photo from my trip to Kirtland, 2009

Update: The book has now been released. I finished it in just a few days and really loved all that it taught me. Learning more about the time and the people was enlightening. For example, this part below occurred in the Kirtland Temple and reads like a Hollywood movie, but these are real people with real passion:

A snippet from the Saints book

The official site has all the places that you can purchase or download the full book. I hope you’ll find a way to read it. 

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Take the time to understand and organize your tech

I attended the Apple Developer conference in June where they introduced a new feature called Screen Time. Primarily, this is a way for iPhone users to understand how much and how often they use their phones. It’s a much needed update that will be released this Fall.

There have been a number of other apps and services that have done this sort of monitoring, but this one is the most ideal:

  1. It’s free on every new iPhone and on all iPhones from the last handful of years.
  2. It’s built into the operating system, which means it has more access and automation to all of the phone software, including apps that are installed and technology like WiFi and cellular.
  3. The service will run on your own phone, as well as anyone in your family.

It’s that last point that I’d like to cover a little bit here.

If your family has had iPhones for more than a few years, there’s a good chance that you have been using a shared Apple ID. This was the ideal way to buy apps, music and video so everyone in the family could access it.

A few years ago, Apple introduced family sharing. It takes a little time and effort to setup, but it’s worth it. Family Sharing will allow you to share calendars, purchases, your location, and also storage. This means that you can pay for just one iCloud storage account and everyone can back up their phones to it. Each family member would have their own password, address book, etc but will be recognized as a group.

In addition to all these other features, Screen Time will also be available to those registered as Parents on the family account. This means that you can work with your children to set some guidelines and use technology with intent in their life.

Once released, you’ll be able to set app limits, determine times when the phone will not work other than essential apps like making calls and sending messages. You will also have a daily and weekly report on how often phones are picked up and for how many hours they are used.

I highly recommend taking the time to understand technology and it’s use in your family. I’m not a fan of slyly monitoring activities of children. Talking with your kids can help them use this powerful tool in just the right way. It will help them understand balance in their life, mange better sleep schedules, and enjoy all that the real world has to offer.

I’ve been using the beta of Screen Time in our family. We use it to make the iPods in our home productive tools to include messaging with family, writing in a daily journal, and sharing fun family photos. Games and social media apps are disabled and only available for travel during vacations.

As the release of Screen Time nears, I’m considering presenting some free public workshops on how to use this free service in your family. Let me know if you’d be interested.

In the mean time, take the opportunity to line up your Apple ID situation in your family. To move from an individual iCloud account to Family Sharing is not difficult, but it takes a little organization.